HEC Paris Leaders of Tomorrow Series

An Investment in Herself: How an EMBA Helped Manon Frappier Reinvent Her Career

Manon Frapier

Manon Frappier’s 30-year career in the fashion industry, most recently as Senior Vice President of Design at Calvin Klein, had been a successful one.

But when she lost her job along with many others at the company, Frappier decided to pivot and to move from the creative side of things to the business end.

As an experienced professional looking for a new path, an Executive MBA from HEC Paris was the key to that transition.

“I’ve always been very attracted to the numbers side of things,” she said. “I really saw potential and added creativity in my teams’ work by understanding what was going on with the consumer by the numbers and statistics. The EMBA program was really filling in the holes I felt I had with this along the way. The business acumen, strategy approach, analytical side was something I didn’t know how to capture before.”

An EMBA experience that fosters creativity.

Frappier went into the HEC Paris Executive MBA program thinking she would have to curb her intuition and creativity and start being pragmatic and serious, and that she would have to throw 30 years’ worth of design and creativity in the trash and transform into something completely different – but that isn’t what happened at all.

“I realized when we did projects or approached certain issues in class, I did it differently,” she said. “I did it in more of a creative and unexpected way and that was usually a plus. I was not expecting that from my EMBA. I am feeling much more empowered than I thought I would. I have business knowledge, but it’s so much more than that, and that was a big surprise. I’m very excited to see where I can take that.”

She chose HEC Paris for several reasons. She was considering a few well-known schools in the US, but quickly realized Europe offered a better return on investment because the costs were significantly lower, and she also felt HEC Paris offered a more global point of view. And then, of course, there was Paris itself.

Unlocking an agile mindset for a new career.

“For me, fashion is born and bred in Paris,” she said.

Frappier found that the HEC Paris EMBA program was exactly what she needed to make a mid-career change.

“I’m changing from designing the product to strategizing about the product,” Frappier said. “Most companies are not very agile in connecting strategy, merchandising, marketing, and creative. Before my EMBA, I would have no idea how to go about facilitating that connection. Information systems is the future; we have to know that as business leaders.”

Frappier is already taking this idea further. At the urging of one of her professors, she joined up with – and now serves on the board of – IFDAQ, a proprietary AI technology that aims to turn the highly complex and disjointed fashion and luxury industry into an intelligent, predictable, and transparent AI-ecosystem.

“The fashion industry is a lot about guts and intuition,” she said. “But to a certain degree, you need some facts and information. IFDAQ takes all this information and quantifies it, and gets true results on things like what model is going to be best, or what ambassador would best represent the product on Instagram, and gives you an incredible web of information.”

Calling the company “visionary,” Frappier is excited to be on the forefront of changing the industry.

“I feel like this trend is just starting now, and I feel like a lot of people will be heading in this direction,” she said. “It is one thing to aggregate the information, something else to aggregate the right information and to guide the right information. We can’t for much longer go with our gut decisions; we know everything these days comes down to data mining.”

A well-rounded education.

Her experience at HEC Paris hasn’t just been about learning business concepts. She has also learned a lot about leadership after being named Chief Happiness Officer of her cohort.

“Someone approached me to run, and I thought, ‘I don’t do things like that. But they said, ‘You are here to try new experiences, and maybe this is uncomfortable for you but you are not going to fail because we are all here to see you through.”

It has been an incredibly positive experience for her.

“It is really about the culture and in strategic business management keeping your employees or group happy, encouraged and motivated to go forward,” she said. “It has been a difficult year with COVID, lots of people are unhappy. I was able to help build teams that are fun, moving together, coherently, which is a super important component in working from home.”

Frappier is excited to take all her new knowledge from HEC Paris and apply it in the field.

“Now I’m bringing a point of view I feel is very much missing in the New York fashion scene,” she said. “When you look at operating profits, revenues of Parisian companies are superior than most American brands. There is an important balance that needs to happen between the creative side and the business side that I’m hoping to bring to New York.”

She’s heading back to New York City soon, but is considering opportunities in both New York and Paris after garnering considerable interest. Part of the reason Frappier thinks she appeals so heavily on both sides of the Atlantic  is due to the networking opportunities HEC offers: she connects with professors, classmates, and alumni, but is also in touch with the people who write and are a part of the case studies.

“Now as an academic, I can make those connections,” she said. “We start exchanging and it’s amazing. It takes me from being a handbag designer, with a very closed-in, little circle, to part of a global industry of professionals.”

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About the Author

HEC Paris specializes in education and research in management sciences. As a leading academic institution in Europe and worldwide, HEC Paris offers a complete and unique range of education programs for students and executive education programs for leaders.